New Research in Natural Ingredients

This article originally ran in the July 2011 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.

  • The natural beauty market only continues to grow in popularity, forcing brand owners to now seek new natural ingredient alternatives for cosmetic formulations.
  • Don’t be fooled by the chemical names of ingredients—often, despite complicated names, these ingredients are still natural and/or organic.
  • Preservatives are another place where natural cosmetic ingredients come into play, so its important to stay informed on what’s available and efficacious.

Have you ever enjoyed or benefited from a man-made lake? If you have, you will appreciate the new research in natural ingredients. Why? Consider this: A man-made lake is none other than natural ingredients moved or manipulated for the purpose of providing beneficial resources, such as energy, drinking water and food.

So it is with natural ingredients. Recent research has shown that if you combine or manipulate certain natural ingredients, they can enhance each other’s performance in a synergistic way, providing beneficial and effective results. Currently, due to the beauty industry’s relative self-regulation, beauty brand owners are able to make natural claims without certification.

The Natural Revolution

The natural revolution is quietly gaining momentum in the beauty industry.

  • Organic and natural sales growth in the U.S. is increasing every year.
  • Consumers are increasingly interested in natural beauty products.
  • According to Lee Kynaston, editor of Men’s Health magazine in the United Kingdom, men are inquiring and requesting all-natural products for their unique skin care issues.
  • Baby boomers are looking for healthier alternatives, from natural or organic food and clothing to pet food and makeup.
  • Young people are increasingly choosing organic clothing, food and skin care.

It is easy to understand why beauty brands are ramping up their research and rushing to satisfy this consumer demand. However, ask any beauty industry product development team how these trends have affected their daily routine, and they will say it’s a tough job. It’s difficult to maintain natural or organic standards—as upheld by organizations such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) or Ecocert—and also make sure a formula is silky smooth, neutral or pleasantly scented, neutral or pleasantly colored, pleasantly textured, easy to absorb, nonoily/non-greasy, non-comedogenic, non-allergenic, hydrating, fair trade, eco-friendly, with a reasonable shelf life and, last but not least, just as effective as a conventional product, or better. It is a challenge to say the least.

Cara Welch, PhD, vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs for the Natural Products Association (NPA), comments, “It’s all about efficacy. If you place two products next to each other, one conventional and one all-natural, and they are both truly effective and share the same price points, it’s a no-brainer that an informed consumer would choose the product with ingredients that have been proven effective, natural and safe for hundreds or even thousands of years.”

The key words here are “informed consumer,” and that is exactly what consumers are nowadays—informed. Remember, a growing number of informed consumers are interested in purchasing a natural alternative that can outperform a synthetic counterpart.

Up-and-coming Natural Ingredients

To get started in your search for the best all-natural ingredients, listen up, because they may be different from what you imagine. Dihydrogen monoxide may sound dangerous to those with a limited knowledge of chemistry or who hold to an ideal of a chemical-free life. There even was an attempt to ban this chemical—it’s a good thing it didn’t pass. If it had, everyone would be without ... water. Yes, dihydrogen monoxide is the scientific name for water. This just goes to show how the lack of scientific literacy and an exaggerated analysis can lead to misplaced fears.

Many natural and organic ingredients and organic blends have names that might raise a skeptical eyebrow. Consider polyglyceryl-2 dipolyhydroxystearate. This very long word sounds dangerous, but it is actually a friendly ingredient. The simple organic terms that were once familiar are now being synergistically married with some very powerfully anti-aging and active compounds that are equally natural, but have tongue-twisting names.

Following is a sneak peek of up-and-coming ingredients that are both all-natural and highly effective.


  • Myoxinola—These botanical hibiscus oligopeptides can help inhibit muscle cell contraction, complemented with activity against biological agents of cellular aging.
  • Macelignan—This active ingredient from nutmeg can cause cells from adipose tissue to increase in volume, thereby allowing wrinkles to become less visible.
  • Zirhafirmb—This four-part synergistic combination, which includes zizyphus jujuba seed extract, recovers and maintains skin’s firmness and elasticity by helping activate gene expression and strengthening intracellular unions.
  • EcoBidensc—This three-part blend promotes a decrease of inflammatory mediators involved in premature skin aging, and protects DNA resistance and senescence. It helps improve fibroblast proliferation and re-establishes antioxidant enzymes after sun stress.
  • Elestan LS 9913a—This offers four-in-one protection and repair activity on the skin’s elastic fiber network, and helps to enhance skin firmness, resilience and elasticity.

(Myoxinol and Elestan LS 9913 are trade names of Cognis Corporation, Germany; Zirhafirm is a trade name of Centerchem, Inc., Norwalk, CT; EcoBidens, Bioskinup Contour 3R and Aquasense 3R are trade names of Chemyunion, São Paulo, Brazil. )

Anti-aging for eyes:

  • Bioskinup Contour 3Rc—This is an eight-part synergistic blend of Brazilian and European plants that provide triple action: anti-inflammatory, anti-edematous and venous protection.
  • This is a complete and scientifically based dermocosmetic active developed for delicate problem areas around the eyes.


  • 1,3-Propanediol—A corn-based humectant that may be superior to other synthetic humectants such as butylene glycol.
  • Adansonia digitata—This oil harvested from the dry valley of the Limpopo region in South Africa helps repair damaged skin, and offers instant and sustained relief from dry, damaged skin.
  • Aquasense 3Rc—This moisturizer helps prevent skin aging while increasing fibronectins, aquaporins and envelope proteins, increasing moisturization from inside out. Clinically tested for moisturizing and skin aging effects.

Skin lightening. This natural ingredient can help provide lightening results when included in skin care and cosmetic formulations.

  • Artocarpus incises—This heartwood extract of Thai breadfruit is a new skin-lightening active that may be better than kojic acid, a great substitute for hydroquinone.

Natural Preservation

What is left out of natural products is as important as what is included, and this is the crux of natural preservation challenges. Not getting into the paraben debate, preservative blends have been created using a wide range of aroma-inspired ingredients and have the added benefit of providing a little aroma to the formulation.

For example, phenethyl alcohol, or 2-phenylethanol, may sound like a synthetic chemical, but it’s actually an organic compound found in a variety of essential oils—including rose, carnation, hyacinth, aleppo pine, orange blossom, ylang-ylang and geranium.

It is used as a preservative because of its antimicrobial properties. There are also preservatives that add benefits such antioxidant properties. These include trehalose, or glyceryl caprylate, which is a preservative that acts as a humectant and improves the overall moisturizing capacity of the entire formula.

Steer Your Ship

Indeed, natural beauty has come a long way. There are more independent studies, more science and more ways to make a difference. Like anything else, the research just keeps getting better.

The winds of change are redirecting the ship. Nothing is secret anymore. Informed consumers know what they want. Being informed will also help brand owners know when to turn the ship, when to let go of old ideas, and when to embrace and offer cutting-edge, all-natural products that have been made from new ingredient research.

Sherrie Berry’s 20-year career in business includes successful corporate executive positions such as vice president for a big-box retail chain and CEO for a distribution company. She is currently the CEO and product developer at SkinAgain, where she leads a multidisciplinary team of skin care technicians, chemists and market researchers.

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